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    Threatening Processes

        At a glance

        Roses Tier

        The issue

        This Issue Report describes those processes involving the extraction or harvesting of wood and timber products from native forests. Firewood is reviewed separately (see the Firewood Collection and Usage Issue Report).

        The Native Forests Issue Report focuses entirely on the harvesting of wood and timber products from native forests. Land clearance is defined to include the removal of native forest and non-forest native vegetation communities where a substantial and, generally, irreversible loss of native vegetation occurs. Clearance of native vegetation is reviewed in the Land Clearance Issue Report. Examples include the clearance of land because of inundation through dams, urban development, 'improved' pasture, cropping, and plantation development. This approach is consistent with definitions of clearance outlined by Kirkpatrick and Mendel (1999).

        Native forests consist of tree and understorey species that are native to Tasmania. They are complex and diverse ecosystems comprising communities of species, fungi, insects and fauna, and the relationships between them. The RFA classifies 50 individual forest communities. They include mature (including old-growth), regrowth and regeneration forest. Elements of native forest also include sclerophyll/eucalypt forest and forest that may not have a direct commercial forest harvesting interest, such as, non-eucalypt forest and grassy woodlands. Native forests do not include plantations, even though the species planted (such as blue gum Eucalyptus globulus) may be native.

        Tasmanian forests are highly productive in terms of wood production. In 1999 they produced 70% of Australia's decorative veneers, as well as 50% of Australian produced printing and writing paper, and 57% of newsprint production. Other products harvested from Tasmania's native forests include: firewood, raw seed, nectar, honey, cut flowers, treeferns, and sphagnum moss. Harvesting statistics for 2000-01 include: 468,500 m3 of native eucalypt sawlogs; 27,400 m3 of other native sawlogs; and 1,712 kg of raw seed. The most currently available statistics for pulpwood production were for 1999-00 when 4,735,000 tonnes of pulpwood was harvested from native forests. Between 1996-00, the volume of woodchips harvested from native forest increased by 73%. Annual honey production remained relatively constant at 1,000 tonnes.

        This 'At a glance' section provides an overview of forests and forest harvesting. More detailed information is available in the Native Forests Issue Report. More detailed assessments of forestry activities are also available through the Background Report: Inquiry on the Progress with the Implementation of the Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement (RPDC 2002), Forest Practices Board Annual Reports, and State of the Forests Reports prepared by Forestry Tasmania and the Forest Practices Board. Much of the following information is sourced from these reports.

        Indicators are presented that provide an overview of products harvested, extent and condition of native vegetation, area of native forest available for timber production, and reservation (see Indicators).

        Related recommendations include: Native Vegetation and Conservation and Reservation.

        Favourable news

        • The Forest Practices Code was reviewed and a new code was launched in 2000. The Forest Practices Amendment Act 2001 was also introduced to bring forest harvesting activity and clearance of all forest (greater than 1ha or more than 100 tonnes per annum) under the Forest Practices Act 1985.
        • Tasmania is committed to establishing a comprehensive, adequate and representative (CAR) reserve system. The CAR reserve system, under the Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement, has an objective of reserving at least 15% of all forest types which existed in 1750.
        • Since 1994-95 there has been an increase in the percentage of forest harvesting using partial logging on both public and private land (40% of public land in 1994-95 to 49% in 2001-02; and 46% of private land in 1994-95 to 69% of private land in 2001-02).
        • Approximately 40% of Tasmania's existing native forest estate (as at June 2001) was within formal and informal CAR reserves on crown land or within private CAR reserves. Approximately 33% of Tasmania's existing native forest estate (as at June 2001) was within formal conservation reserves on crown land or within private CAR reserves.
        • 31,629 ha of native forest on private land was approved for inclusion in the Private Forests Reserve Program as at November 2002.
        • The Warra Long Term Ecological Research site has been established to facilitate the understanding of ecological processes and the biodiversity functions of Tasmania's wet forests, and to investigate alternative silviculture methods in wet forests.

        Unfavourable news

        • Seven forest communities have less than 15% of their current extent in reserves: six are dry eucalypt communities and one a wet eucalypt community. For all these communities, the majority of the remaining extent is on unreserved private land.
        • Ten communities, mainly from the dry eucalypt group, have less than 7.5% of their estimated pre-1750 extent protected in reserves. For most of these communities the remaining extent is chiefly on private land.
        • Wet eucalypt forest has reduced in extent by 25,000 ha since the RFA was signed and Eucalyptus regnans has lost 11.8% of its 1996 extent.
        • Since 1994-95 there has been a decline in the percentage of forest regenerated with seed and an increase in plantation development.
        • Through Criterion Three of the Sustainability Indicators for Tasmanian Forests (maintenance of ecosystem health and vitality), information is available on the area and percentage of forest affected by processes or agents that may change ecosystem health and vitality. Significant health problems reported in native forest areas during 2000-01 were: mortality of eucalypts through drought; high-altitude eucalypt forests in central Tasmania have been suffering progressive crown decline over the past few years; myrtle wilt is the most significant disease of Nothofagus cunninghamii (myrtle); root rot caused by the introduced soil-borne fungus Phytophthora cinnamomi; and unplanned wildfire in fire-sensitive forest communities (Forest Practices Board 2002).

        Uncertain news

        • While figures are available for the loss or conversion of native forest since 1996 (see native vegetation clearance indicator), comparable figures for total area harvested are not available. The data set used in this indicator is obtained from the Forest Practices Board Annual Reports 1999-2000 to 2001-2002. Harvesting figures prior to 1999 were provided as a percentage of the total number of forest harvesting operations approved and not as a percentage of the total area approved for harvesting.
        • There is only limited 'condition' information available on Tasmanian vegetation, although a methodology for recording condition has been established in vegetation mapping for the Tamar region and south-eastern Tasmania.
        • There is uncertainty about the plant and animal species that are impacted by forest harvesting as harvesting plans require only the identification of threatened species.
        • One benchmark for assessing long-term change relies on the completion of the pre-European vegetation map of Tasmania, which is yet to be completed.

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        Last Modified: 14 Dec 2006
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